The magical reign of Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej is over. Born in 1927 and crowned in 1946, Bhumibol, the world’s longest-reigning monarch, passed away on Oct. 13, at the age of 88. Throughout seven decades on the throne, he successfully transformed the declining monarchy into the country’s most powerful political institution. At the same time, the king served as the symbol of Thai unity and stability. His departure has left a gigantic hole in the Thai political landscape that is now filled with uncertainty about the future of the country without the charismatic king.
King Bhumibol had an authoritative reign that competed fiercely with civilian governments for political power and the loyalty of the Thai people. Bhumibol was made into a sacred and inviolable entity, protected by a harsh lèse-majesté law, which states that insulting comments about the monarch are punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Yet, his godly image did not prevent him from performing as the people’s king. His royal development projects were implemented to improve the livelihood of countless Thais. To them, the king meant everything.
After announcing Bhumibol’s death on national television, Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha confirmed that Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn would succeed his father as King Rama X. The announcement was met with a great sense of anxiety as many Thais fear that Vajiralongkorn might not be able to provide the kind of stability his father did. Nonetheless, on Dec. 1, he was officially pronounced as King Vajiralongkorn.
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